San Marino is the oldest Republic in the world and has never been ruled by a monarch. This might come as a surprise when you see the Towers of San Marino that look like medieval fairytale castles worthy of a king… That’s also why some people refer to these impressive towers as San Marino castle or San Marino castles.
The famous Three Towers of San Marino represent the defense of freedom and liberty and are the symbol of the Republic. They are so important to the people of the country that the towers are depicted on its flag and also on the coat of arms.
The Three Towers of San Marino are Guaita Tower (also known as La Rocca or the First Tower), Cesta Tower (also known as Falesia, Fratta, or the Second Tower), and Montale Tower (also known as the Third Tower).
Good to know: Guaita and Cesta Towers can be visited inside. Montale Tower is not open to the public. At the bottom of this article, you can find practical information for visiting the towers/ castles of San Marino.
But first, a bit more about each of the San Marino towers, their history, and tips for your visit. Find out!
READ ALSO: San Marino Travel Guide
Guaita Tower is usually referred to as La Rocca. To make things even more complicated (or maybe easier), locals call it the First Tower (Prima Torre). The meaning of the word ‘guaita’ is ‘to guard’ and that was indeed the purpose of this tower.
Guaita – La Rocca is the oldest of the three San Marino towers, built in the 11th century. It’s believed that the first inhabitants of San Marino found a refugee here around the year 1000. This tower was built directly on the mountain, without foundation, and was completely rebuilt a few centuries later.
For several centuries, Guaita Tower also served as a prison, until 1975. Nowadays, it’s a landmark/museum. Inside, you’ll find the Chapel of Santa Barbara, the Bell Tower, and the Pen Tower.
This is the most famous tower of the three and the one you’ll see in most pictures and travel brochures of San Marino. Visiting Guaita Tower gives you access to the most incredible views of the city and its wide surroundings. You can even see Rimini and the Adriatic Sea from here.
TIP: For far, 360° views, climb to the top of the tower. The last part of the stairs is actually a steep metal ladder that emerges on the terrace through a small opening in the ceiling. It looks intimidating at first, but really worth it!
Cesta Tower, more widely known as Falesia, but also as De La Fratta is the Second Tower (Seconda Torre) of San Marino. I have no idea why they make things so complicated by having all these different names for one place, but I guess they date from different periods and all have their own history.
Cesta – Falesia Tower is another defensive fortress of San Marino. It was built in the 13th century. It used to host a guardian and, in case of a threat, a garrison of crossbowmen. The tower has undergone several renovations during the 14-17th centuries, but over time, it fell into ruin. It was finally restored to its original glory in the first part of the 20th century.
Since 1956, Cesta Tower houses the Museum of Ancient Arms. Inside, you’ll find a collection of about 2000 weapons from all over the world. You’ll see various swords and shields, pole weapons, and also guns. Some of the weapons here are about 500 years old.
The Second Tower stands on the highest of the three peaks of Mount Titano (755 m altitude). On a clear day, you can see as far as the Croatian coast on the other side of the Adriatic Sea.
Montale Tower is also sometimes referred to as the Third Tower (Terza Torre) of San Marino. The smallest of the three towers, it was built in the 14th century at a strategically defensive position that offers 360° views of the valley below.
I read that there is an 8-meter deep prison at the bottom of the tower. However, as already mentioned, Montale cannot be visited inside. Nevertheless, you can walk to it from the Second Tower, and enjoy the views around you.
The Third Tower is located a bit further away from the city and most tourists don’t seem to get this far. When I visited, I was completely alone here. Still, it’s just a short easy walk to get here from Cesta Tower, so do make an effort and check it out!
Don’t miss Passo delle Streghe !
When visiting the towers of San Marino, you cannot really miss the cobbled path that connects the first two towers, the Witches Path (Passo delle Streghe).
To me, this is the most beautiful place in San Marino! As you walk from one tower to another, don’t forget to look back several times. Even better – make sure to walk this path in two directions.
TIP: The nicest view can be found about half-way between the two towers, looking towards the first tower. It’s breathtakingly beautiful!
Also, at the lowest point of the Witches Path, you’ll see a little building with public bathrooms. From there, you have a nice view of a hole in the rock and a narrow bridge that is part of the Witches Path. You can’t see this from the path itself.
How to Visit All Three Towers
The Three Towers of San Marino are located just outside the historic city center. Since they are all built on the same mountain, you can easily walk from one tower to another via a series of pathways.
You’ll also find little arrows all across the town center pointing the way to the main attractions. Look for the signs to the First Tower. From there, there’s just one way leading to the Second Tower, and from there, you can easily locate the path to the Third Tower. You can also reach each of the towers directly via several other walkways from various locations in the city.
As already mentioned, the Witches Path between the first two towers is one of the most beautiful places to see in San Marino. So don’t miss it! It takes about 5-10 minutes to walk this path between the first two towers and it involves quite some stairs.
The path to Montale Tower can be found behind the wall, on the right side when facing the entrance to the Cesta Tower. You’ll see an opening in the wall that looks a bit like a doorway. Once on the other side, simply turn left and follow the path next to the wall. After a while, it becomes a forest path, and there’s some altitude difference, but nothing strenuous. It also takes 5-10 minutes to walk between these two towers.
Practical Information for Visiting Guaita & Cesta Towers
The two main towers of San Marino – Guaita and Cesta – are open to visitors. You can visit daily, the whole year round. The towers are only closed on December 25, January 1, and November 2 in the afternoon.
Opening hours vary per season. In high season (mid June to mid September), the towers are open from 8 AM to 8 PM; the rest of the year – from 9 AM to 5 PM.
At the moment of writing, the entrance fee for one tower is 4.5 EUR. A ticket for two towers costs 6.5 EUR. You can also get a combination ticket for 10.5 EUR that includes the entrance to the First Tower, the Second Tower, San Francesco Museum, and the Modern Art Gallery. This ticket is valid for 10 days.
Accessibility. Unfortunately, San Marino towers are not really accessible by wheelchair or with a stroller. Even if you could get to the bottom of the towers via the cobbled pathways, you wouldn’t be able to visit the towers in a wheelchair. There are stairs everywhere in the towers and also on the Witches Path. If you are visiting San Marino with a baby, it’s better to pack a baby-carrier for the castles. Most toddlers should be able to walk between the towers as distances aren’t that big.
For more practical information, you can check the official website of San Marino museums. However, keep in mind that all the information there is in Italian.
So, this is our short guide to the Three Towers of San Marino. I have already said it in our other articles about San Marino, but I have to repeat it once again – if you can, stay at least one night in San Marino!
That way you can explore the towers late in the evening and early in the morning, without the crowds of day tourists. It’s a magical experience!
For tips on where to stay, check our guide to the best hotels in San Marino.
If you are looking for ideas for other nice things to do near San Marino, check out our 3-day Emilia Romagna itinerary. This stunning Italian region that surrounds San Marino is a true hidden gem of Italy with so many nice places and few international visitors.
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